Football Notebook

By Chris Kamrani, Asst. Sports Editor

Kickin’ it Wright

Louie Sakoda must have a quest for intergalactic domination.

Or maybe more simply, domination of the Mountain West Conference.
Sakoda, who nailed a 37-yard field goal as time expired in Utah’s 31-28 comeback victory over Oregon State, was named the MWC Special Teams Player of the Week. With that achievement, Sakoda has tied the MWC record for most career player of the week awards with his 10, which ties him with former BYU quarterback John Beck.

“Louie (Sakoda) has been huge for us,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “(Sakoda) is everything we expected him to be.”

The senior from San Jose, Calif., has taken home more weekly nods than any other MWC specialist in the history of the conference. He is also Utah’s leading points holder with 249 total points.

Alongside Sakoda taking home weekly honors, linebacker Mike Wright certainly emerged from the shadows Thursday night against the Beavers.

The senior middle linebacker had his most impressive game in a Ute uniform to date with a career-high 15 tackles, coinciding with a sack for nine yards and two pass break-ups en route to a MWC Defensive Player of the Week award.

“We take a lot of ownership in our defense,” Wright said. “We take pride in what we do.”

You have two minutes to live…

Facing a two-minute and 11-second deficit, it was merely 11 seconds more than the Utes planned for.

The Utes obliterated an eight-point Beaver lead, thanks to the timely use of their two-minute offense, something on which the team prides itself extremely highly.

“We work the heck out of the two-minute offense probably more than anyone in the country,” Whittingham said. “Most times it is a win-or-lose situation. We pay a lot of attention to it all year.”

Though the offense struggled all night, it was suddenly lively and chugging ahead with a full head of steam. Most of the credit went to quarterback Brian Johnson who, oddly enough, looked more comfortable playing with his back against the wall.

“It just kinda goes,” Johnson said regarding Utah’s two-minute offense. “We practice it a ton. (It’s) one of our strengths as our offense is getting in those situations and getting back there and letting it rip.”

The in-huddle play-calling by Johnson suddenly left OSU on its heels, and his 25-yard strike to Bradon Godfrey opened Pandora’s Box for the OSU defense.

“It’s just kind of the flow of the game,” Johnson said. “It just depends on the situation. Personally, for me, I’m very comfortable in the two-minute (offense), you know, it’s to the point where I can call the plays and call the protections.”

Whittingham echoed the sentiments of his quarterback.

“Brian (Johnson) is very cool under pressure,” Whittingham said. “When things get tight, he is at his best, and he has a great knack for engineering the two-minute drive. Those are the keys for us: the time spent on it and the guy running it.”

Some rest for the weary

With Thursday night’s game, Utah gained more than an important victory toward its dream of a Bowl Championship Series bowl game.

It gained two days of much-needed rest.

Whittingham and his staff gave the players Saturday and Sunday off. He also noted that it helps the staff look forward to the next week’s game with ease.

“We accomplish two things with the long week,” Whittingham said. “We gave the team Saturday and Sunday off, so they get a little more rest. The coaches get a jump start on the next opponent. We will do a lot more today than a typical Monday with the extra time to prepare and will scale back the rest of the week. It’s a little more front-end loaded than a typical week.”

Wright was glad to have the victory under his belt, but noted the rest couldn’t come at a better time for his Utes.

“The season is long,” Wright said. “It wears on you mentally and physically, so for us, to get two days off is a big positive for us.”

Two drives, one win

Is anyone else still in the “I can’t believe Utah actually won” mode?

For one, the Utes themselves aren’t.

“I am proud of the way our players hung in against Oregon State,” Whittingham said. “I thought they demonstrated toughness and poise down the stretch.”

That’s something that has been an echo throughout the voices of the team since Thursday’s victory.

“It was a big win, but every week is a big week and a big win,” Whittingham said. “We got bowl eligible, and we are at the mid-season point right where we hope to be. One week at a time.”

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Tyler Cobb

Mike Wright had a career high of 15 tackles against Oregon State last week.